Category Archives: Feast Days

On Romans 10:9 – and “Salvation for all…”

Flevit super illam“- Jesus wept as He approached Jerusalem, shortly before Palm Sunday

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First a note:  That “salvation for all” thing includes the addendum, “who come to Him.”

Back to the main topic:  Palm Sunday is coming up this weekend.  Easter Sunday comes a week later – on April 21 – and with it the end of Lent.  And of my chance to write up – as part of a Lenten discipline – “a reasoned, careful, blog-post treatise on precisely ‘why I don’t like Donald Trump.'”  (As I hoped in last March 15’s On the Bible’s “dynamic tension.”  That is, a logical reatise without the “fallacy of ad hominem attacks,” or my saying to Trump supporters, “What are you, dumbasses?”)

Which definitely would have been the hard part.

But alas, my busy schedule – including preparing for the upcoming “On to Jerusalem” – precluded doing that treatise.  So I’m back to a main theme of this blog, the Daily Office Readings.  For example, the New Testament reading for Tuesday, April 9, Romans 10:1-13.

‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

That first part (Romans 10:8) goes back to Deuteronomy 30:14, where Moses said, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it.”  Then Romans 10:9 – including the words emphasized – relates back to (for one example) Matthew 10:32:  “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father in heaven.”

And of course there’s good old John 6:37 – a standard feature of the opening blurb, and as illustrated in “Malayalam” at left – “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.”

The point of all this is that the foregoing – and especially Romans 10:9 – gives all real Christians a ready answer to so-called conservative Christians who say or imply that you and I are “going to hell” if we choose not to interpret the Bible in exactly the same way that they do.  (See “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian,'” and – as to the “going to hell card” – The Bible’s “dynamic tension,” on the danger of accusing fellow Christians of “heresy.”)

All you have to say is:  “I’ve confessed with my lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead.  So the Bible says I’m saved.”  (Even – gasp! – a “liberal Christian.”  On that note see There Is Such a Thing as a ‘Liberal’ Christian.  His name was Jesus.)

I’ve written on Romans 10:9 in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other.  That included an added reference to 1st Corinthians 12:3:  “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”  And about that tension between Deuteronomy 19 and Ezekiel 3:

In other words, if I think – or say, perhaps with relish – that someone I don’t like is going to “roast in hell” and he’s not, then I’ve put myself in danger of roasting in hell.  (Per Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)  Of course I don’t particularly care if a “Trump-humping evangelical” roasts in hell for eternity.  But it’s my duty – and my CYA – to warn him of the danger.  (Per Ezekiel 3:16-19.)

And speaking of too-far-right conservative Christians who take “an isolated passage from the Bible out of context(including “Stumpy,” at right):  One of the psalms today is Psalm 127.  Which includes Psalm 127:3-5: “Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.”

I’ve written on that topic is “Bible basics” revisited:

[S]ome Christians become snake handlers. (Like “Stumpy…”)  They do this based on a literal interpretation of Mark 16:18.  In other words, taking an isolated passage from the Bible out of context…  Other Christians work to develop large families – as a way of showing their faith – again based on focusing literally on Psalm 127:3-5, taking that one passage out of context: “Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.”

See Quiverfull – Wikipedia, on the “movement of conservative Christian couples” which sees children as a “blessing from God” and “encourages procreation, abstaining from all forms of birth control (including natural family planning) and sterilization.”

But “Basics” revisited set out an arguably-better approach:  You “could approach the Bible as presenting a plain, common-sense view of some people in the past who have achieved that ‘union with a Higher Power.'”  Such a common-sense approach can lead to an ability to transcend the painful and negative aspects of life, to live with “serenity and inner peace,” and develop a “zest, a fervor and gusto in life plus a much higher ability to function.”

Which means that ideally, one who reads the Bible on a daily basis should not become an intolerant, self-righteous prig.  (Going around telling others how to live.)  Or as Saint Peter said, “Don’t let me hear of your … being a busybody and prying into other people’s affairs…”  Instead, such Bible-Reading on a regular basis should lead to a well-adjusted and open-minded person.  And also one who is tolerant of the inherent weaknesses – including his own – of all people.  In other, a person able to live life “in all its fullness.”

So how do you do all that?  Here’s an answer from one of the great philosophers of our time:

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The upper image is courtesy of Triumphal entry into Jerusalem – Wikipedia.  It included the note:  “In Luke 19:41 as Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he looks at the city and weeps over it (an event known as Flevit super illam in Latin), foretelling the suffering that awaits the city.”  See also Luke 13:34 and Luke 19:42.  Luke 13:34 reads:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.”  Luke 19:42 adds, to the previous verse, “If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace!  But now it is hidden from your eyes.”  See also Flevit super illam – The Collection – Museo Nacional del Prado

The Palm Sunday image is courtesy of Palm Sunday – Image Results.  The image is accompanied by a web article from 2017, “Palm Sunday – How Jesus’ Triumphant entry into Jerusalem turned the world on its head.”  The article is from Christian Today, “the UK’s largest online Christian news provider, with the latest in-depth reports.”  The April 8, 2019 edition included an article, “Brexit and the decline of Britain: lessons from the Old Testament,” which included some interesting reading:

Britain today in its moral and political turbulence is reminiscent of Old Testament Israel in the 11th century BC. That too was a time when there was no guiding consensus and “all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21v25).  But instead of looking to God, of course, Israel demanded a new system of government in the form of a strong man (1 Samuel 8v5) – just as many in Britain are now apparently doing.

The article noted in recent years many countries have opted “for maverick ‘strongmen’ to lead their nations – Erdogan in Turkey;  Putin in Russia;  Berlusconi in Italy;  even Trump, in a way, in America.”  (In a way?)  It then cited polling by the Hansard Society which indicated that “54% of voters would like ‘a strong ruler willing to break the rules.’  Only 23% said they were against such an idea.”

As to the goal for Lent about Donald Trump…  I wrote in The Bible’s “dynamic tension:”

So – for this Lent – I’m going to try mightily to prepare a reasoned, careful, logical blog-post treatise on precisely “why I don’t like Donald Trump.”  (Without resorting to the “fallacy of ad hominem attacks.”)  In other words, I will try – without resorting to name-calling – to present the valid reasons why I think Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate…  Beyond that – for my Lenten discipline this year – I am also going to try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him.  (Without saying, “What are you, dumbasses?”)  And that is definitely going to be the hard part…

Also, the full Daily Office Readings for Tuesday, April 9, are:  “AM Psalm [120], 121, 122, 123; PM Psalm 124, 125, 126, [127], Jeremiah 25:8-17; Romans 10:1-13; [and] John 9:18-41.”

Re:  Deuteronomy, Chapter 30.  Verses 11 through 14 (“The Offer of Life or Death”) read:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you;  it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

The John 6:37 “malayalim” image is courtesy of John 6:37 – Image Results.  Malayalam is a Dravidian language; that is, a “language family spoken mainly in Southern India and parts of Central and Eastern India, as well as in Sri Lanka with small pockets in southwestern Pakistan, southern AfghanistanNepalBangladesh and Bhutan, and overseas in other countries such as MalaysiaPhilippinesIndonesia and Singapore.”  That language is “spoken in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) by the Malayali people, and it is one of 22 scheduled languages of India.”  Which proves the universal appeal of Jesus, to whom all people – including grumpy old white people who should know better – are “infants before God.”  See for example Where do I find the age of accountability in the Bible, which included the example of 2 Samuel 12:21–23, where “David seemed to be saying that he would see his baby son (in heaven), though he could not bring him back.”  Then there’s this:

[T]his is a subject about which we should not be adamant or dogmatic.  God’s applying Christ’s death to those who cannot believe would seem consistent with His love and mercy. It is our position that God applies Christ’s payment for sin to babies and those who are mentally handicapped, since they are not mentally capable of understanding their sinful state and their need for the Savior, but again we cannot be dogmatic.  Of this we are certain: God is loving, holy, merciful, just, and gracious … and He loves children even more than we do. 

The lower image is courtesy of izquotes.com/quote/217824.  See also Charlie Chan (Wikipedia).  The quote is said to have come from Charlie Chan at the Circus, and in the form given.  See Charlie Chan – Wikiquote and Reel Life Wisdom – The Top 10 Wisest Quotes from Charlie Chan.  But I could have sworn that the actual quote was, “Mind like parachute;  work best when open.”

“On to Jerusalem!”

A late-afternoon view of Jerusalem – with the Dome of the Rock, in gold, in the left foreground…

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And speaking of pilgrimages This May I’ll be making such a two-week journey to Jerusalem (As part of a local church group.)  On that note, Kenneth Clark – the noted British “art historian, museum director, and broadcaster” – discussed the origin of such spiritual journeys in his 1969 TV series, Civilisation (The following quotes are from the book version, at pages 40-42.)  

In Chapter 2 – “The Great Thaw” – Clark noted the “sudden reawakening of European civilization in the 12th century.” (That is, the years from 1101 to 1199 or so.)  He said that “great thaw” – the sudden spurt of growth in human development – did not come about from mere idle contemplation.  Instead it came as the result of action:  “a vigorous, violent sense of movement, both physical and intellectual.”

The physical – action – part took the form of pilgrimages; most often to Jerusalem.  That led in turn to the Crusades (“Traditionally, they [the Crusades] took place between 1095 and 1291;” and of course “the most important place of pilgrimage was Jerusalem.”)   But these early pilgrimages were not at all like our “cruises or holidays abroad” today.  For one thing they took a long time; often two or three years.  “For another, they involved real hardship and danger.”

That is, despite efforts to organize (“pilgrims used to go in parties of 7000 at a time”), “elderly abbots and middle-aged widows often died on the way to Jerusalem.”  (Note that our church group requires a doctor’s note from those over 70, saying they “must be able to walk three miles at once at a normal pace” – at least 2-and-a-half miles an hour – “without assistance from others.”)

Another difference:  Today such a pilgrimage is typically “a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs.”  But in those early days, the “point of a pilgrimage was to look at relics.”  (On that note, see 2015’s On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”)

The belief in the “magic” of relics – Clark said – was a product of the Medieval Mind.  “The medieval pilgrim really believed that by contemplating a reliquary containing the head or even the fingers of a saint he would persuade that particular saint to intercede on his behalf with God.”  (Clark cited an example, Saint Foy, a “little girl of who in late Roman times” was put to death for refusing to worship idols, and then was “turned into one herself.”  That is, an idol.*)  

Portrait of Napoleon in his forties, in high-ranking white and dark blue military dress uniform. In the original image He stands amid rich 18th-century furniture laden with papers, and gazes at the viewer. His hair is Brutus style, cropped close but with a short fringe in front, and his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat.In other words, the man with a Medieval Mind believed that by going on a pilgrimage – and in the process venerating relics – he could “get good stuff from God.”  Which is of course the same incentive for many practicing Christians today.  (If not for those of any religion.)   Or as Napoleon put it, “Men are moved by only two things:  fear and self-interest.”

But we digress…  As seen in the links at the right of this page, I’ve devoted a whole category to Pilgrimages(Including – the summer of 2018 – I’m back from my Rideau pilgrimage, and – October 2017 – “Hola! Buen Camino!”) 

On the topic being discussed, the most relevant blog-post is probably On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from September 2016.   That post pointed out that St. James the Greater is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  And it indicated that on a true pilgrimage – usually by and through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – we can “quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.”  And it noted that a true pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

In Back from Rideau, the chief ordeal was hour after hour of butt-numbing, back-aching canoe-paddling.  In Buen Camino the chief ordeal was hour after hour of hiking, much of it across the dry and dusty Meseta of northern Spain.  Which meant sore achy feet and blister upon blister.  (At least for the first 250 miles.  From León, we mountain-biked the remaining 200 miles.  Which just meant different parts of the body got sore, achy and/or blistered.)

So the question for the upcoming trip to Jerusalem:  “What part of the trip will help me ‘find a sense of my fragility as a mere human being?'”  And “What part of the trip will be ‘most chastening, and also most liberating?’”  Or maybe I’ll find somewhere a relic to venerate, and so in turn get some “good stuff from God.”  (Aside from being chastened and liberated…)

On that note: Stay tuned!  There may well be “further bulletins as events warrant!”

Calvin and Hobbes

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On another note, last Monday – March 25 – was the Feast of the Annunciation.  See The Annunciation “gets the ball rolling,” from March 2015.  The full title is the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the post showed how in this case the early Church “figured it backwards.”  That is, they started with the birth of Jesus on December 25, then figured backwards nine months.  Since they said Jesus was born on December 25, He had to have been “conceived” on the previous March 25.  That’s where the Annunciation comes in.

It celebrates “the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation.”  There’s more on the Incarnation in the post, along with how and why the Conception and Annunciation both got to happen on the same day.  Now, about that “getting the ball rolling.”

Technically the liturgical year – the church’s calendar year, illustrated at left – begins with Advent (December 1 or so), and goes through next November.  (When it starts all over again.)  But it could be argued that the liturgical year properly starts with the Annunciation; that is, the first moment when it became obvious that God would intervene on our behalf, by and through the birth, life and death of Jesus.

More to the point, the church year “sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus.”  (It’s not an “arbitrary arrangement of ancient holy days”):

It is an excursion into life from the Christian perspective [and] proposes to help us to year after year immerse ourselves into the sense and substance of the Christian life…   It is an adventure in human growth;  it is an exercise in spiritual ripening.

As noted in the “ball rolling” post, I couldn’t have put it better myself.  Thus in one sense the Church Year does begin with Advent.  On the other hand, you could say that while “technically the liturgical year begins” with Advent, it’s the Annunciation that gets the ball rolling

And speaking of “getting the ball rolling.”  Who knows:  My upcoming adventure in Jerusalem will result in some personal “human growth.”  At the very least it should be:

“An exercise in spiritual ripening…

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St. James the Greater, dressed and accoutred as the quintessential Pilgrim…’

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The upper image is courtesy of Jerusalem – Image Results.  See also Jerusalem – WikipediaNote that the post-title – “On to Jerusalem!” – is an allusion to the Civil War’s famous (or infamous) battle cry, “On to Richmond!”  See the National Park Service’s The Focal Point of the Civil War, and Richmond in the American Civil War – Wikipedia.

I cited Clark’s book in On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down:”

Which is another way of saying that all the people who wrote the Bible had to keep in mind the human limitations of their audience.  They were trying to put incomprehensible things into plain and simple language that even the most obtuse dolt could understand.  Or to paraphrase Sir Kenneth Clark, the people who wrote the Bible had to have the intellectual power to make God comprehensible.

The Kenneth Clark paraphrase is from the hardcover book version of Clark’s Civilisation (TV series). On pages 84-85 of the book, Clark compared the poet Dante with the painter Giotto.  Then on page 85, Clark noted the differences between the two men, beginning with the fact that “their imaginations moved on very different planes.”  But in the film version – and only in the film or TV version – Clark said Dante had  “that heroic contempt for baseness that was to come again in Michelangelo.   Above all, that vision of a heavenly order and the intellectual power to make it comprehensible.”  Which is the phrase that drew my attention…  See also Wikipedia, for more on the TV series.

Clark’s writing about early pilgrimages – especially to Jerusalem – are at pages 40-42 of the book.

Re:  The medieval mind.  The link is to The Medieval Mind: A Meditation:

The latter [people in the Middle Ages] were drenched in mysticism, whereas the contemporary world has been shaped by rationalism so that mystical concepts and experiences have been stripped away except among a small number of people steeped in the religious thought of our Western ancestors…  [Also:]  It can be argued that the decline of pilgrimages is a loss to Christian spiritual life in an age of unbelief and immorality when people have a profound need for spiritual examples.

Re:  Saint Foy, put to death for refusing to worship idols, then “turned into one herself.”  (The “idol” is shown at left.)  Clark wrote that she was “obstinate in the face of reasonable persuasion – a Christian Antigone” – and so was martyred.  But then her relics began to work miracles,” including the restoration of sight to a man who eyes had been gouged out “by a jealous priest.”  As to the little girl whose “relics” were turned into an idol – even though she’d been put to death for refusing to worship idols – “that’s the medieval mind.  They care passionately about the truth, but their sense of evidence was different than ours.” 

Also, the link in the text is to St. Foy’s Golden Reliquary – Conques, France – Atlas Obscura, about the “huge golden reliquary of a testicle smashing saint.”  The article added that “Pilgrims pray to saints for holy intercession in all kinds of problems, but they should be very careful what they ask for when approaching St. Foy, who seems to have a wicked sense of humor.”  That is, “St. Foy developed her reputation for… unusual cures. [Ellipses in the original.]  Notably, when a knight came to her seeking a cure for a herniated scrotum, she, via vision, helpfully suggested that he find a blacksmith willing to smash it with a white-hot hammer.”  See the article for the “rest of the story…” 

Also, re “idol.”  See Idolatry – Wikipedia:  “ldolatry literally means the worship of an ‘idol,’ also known as a worship cult image, in the form of a physical image, such as a statue.  In Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity, Islam and Judaism, idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God.”  Note the subtle difference to the medieval mind, asking the “saint” in question to intercede with God…

Re:  Hiking the Meseta part of the Camino de Santiago:  “Many people avoid the Meseta, catching the bus from Burgos to Leon,” while others – who aren’t so wussified – think that misses the whole point of hiking the Camino.

I borrowed the “further bulletins” cartoon from The Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016.

I borrowed the lower image from St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from 2016.  See also Wikipedia, with full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”  Also, the “sluts” post noted in part:  “Of course the two [pilgrimages] I went on this summer weren’t close to being like going to Jerusalem.  (See Back in the saddle again, again.)  But for next summer – more precisely, September 2017 – my brother and I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago…”  (Can you say foreshadowing?)

 

OMG! Is it time for Lent again?

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent – in the form of a metaphor (by Pieter Bruegel the Elder…)

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It is indeed time for Ash Wednesday and Lent, again.

As noted in The beginning of Lent – 2018, the whole idea of Lent – as a kind of mini-Wandering in the Wilderness – started back in the time of Moses.  That’s when he led the Children of Israel through the original Exodus, as detailed later in Nehemiah, at 9:12-21.  For example, “By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.

Now we don’t have an actual “pillar of cloud” by day, or a “pillar of fire in the night” to light our way.  But we do have the example set by Moses.  Then too, “Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing.  Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”  Which brings up the whole topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by SatanLent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, On Ash Wednesday and Lent, and also Lent 101 – The Upper Room.

So Moses and the Children of Israel wandered in the Wilderness for 40 years, and Jesus did His own wandering, during which He was tempted by Satan.  Thus:  “There is a strong biblical base for fasting, particularly during the 40 days of Lent leading to the celebration of Easter.  Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation, went into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights.”

mardi grasNow, about that “Fight Between Carnival and Lent.”  As Wikipedia noted, the battle between the figures “Carnival” – given a modern-day illustration at left – and Lent “was an important event in community life in early modern Europe.”  Lent was characterized by “enforced abstinence and the concomitant spiritual purification,” but to  good cause.  That is, “in preparation for Easter.”  Which itself is a metaphor, in that Bruegel the Elder‘s painting is “rich in allegories and symbolisms that have been long studied.”  In the end, Lent – and Easter – ultimately triumph.

That is, they triumph over the spectacle of people “guided by a fool, and not by reason” – as symbolized in the painting – along with a burning torch, “symbolic of dispute and destruction.”  (Hmmmm…)  In short, Bruegel‘s painting “is often read as the triumph of Lent, since the figure of Carnival seems to bid farewell with his left hand and his eyes lifted to the sky.”

All of which could well be metaphors for some of what’s going on these days…

Another note from The beginning of Lent – 2018:  The “Christian life itself is a pilgrimage, and the 40 days of Lent can be a kind of dress rehearsal, or ‘full-scale practice.’  (Where it’s important to remember the happy ending.)”  And then there’s this additional side note:

There are actually 46 days of Lent.  That is, 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.  Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.”  But somehow that fact got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the “2002 romantic comedy film.”  That film portrayed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  But as noted, the main character “could have taken Sundays off.”  Which again just goes to show that – sometimes at least:

It pays to read and study the Bible!

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40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

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The upper image is courtesy of the “Fight Between Carnival” link in the Wikipedia article on Lent.  The full caption: “‘The Fight Between Carnival and Lent‘ by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1558–1559).” Note the upper image shows a mere “detail;”  see the whole painting at Wikipedia.

For additional information on the upcoming season – during which I’ll do further posts on the appropriate subjects – see My Lenten meditation and/or On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016.  Or for suggestions, see 10 Things To Give Up For Lent In 2019.

Re:  The “modern-day illustration at left.”  It’s from Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016, which noted Lent is devoted to “prayerpenancerepentance of sins, alms-givingatonement and self-denial.

But that season of self-denial is preceded by “Fat Tuesday.”  That’s the day before Ash Wednesday…  The French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras is now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!”  

Wikipedia added, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.”

The lower image is courtesy of 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) – IMDb.  A side note:  I Googled “film 40 days and 40 nights Sundays off,” to see if any Hollywood types had caught on to the “Sundays off” aspect of Lent.  From what I could see, “Apparently not.”  For more information, see Why Sundays Don’t Count During Lent | Guideposts.

“The LORD is a God of knowledge” – The Presentation, 2019

At the Presentation of Our Lord (February 2) – “Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord Jesus…” 

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Saturday, February 2, is the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:

2017Candlemas.jpgCounting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2.  A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem…

In other words, the day celebrates “an early episode in the life of Jesus,” His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem “in order to officially induct him into Judaism.”  It’s celebrated by many Christian Churches, and is also known as Candlemas(As shown above right.)  

There’s more later, but first a word about one of the Daily Office Readings for this February 2 Feast.  Those readings include 1st Samuel 2:3, “For the LORD is a God of knowledge.”  Which – taken together with Isaiah 27:11 – means that “therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge.”  And that’s a bit of Bible law that may well affect the many today who label anything they disagree with – or that contradicts some cherished beliefs – as “Fake News.”

Which brings up another Daily Office Reading for the Presentation, John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Something to think about…

And which also ties in with the fourth great theme of this blog, citing Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

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Getting back to the February 2 Feast Day, I wrote about it in 2015’s On The Presentation of Our Lord, in 2016’s The Presentation of the Lord – 2016, and 2017’s On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord…”  The 2015 post gave some background on what was involved.

It noted this episode was described in the Luke 2:22–40, which said “Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem … to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth.” They were there “in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15.”

Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) (Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”  Leviticus 12:1–4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas.

Yegorov-Simeon the Righteous.jpgThe 2017 post also expanded on Exodus 13:2.  That’s where God told Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male.”  It also noted “the old-timey, ‘once-prevalent custom of churching new mothers forty days after the birth of a child.’”  That quaint custom came to be called “the churching of Women,” and it started – as far as we can tell – back in the Middle Ages.  Though rarely used today, “that quaint practice took place in ‘the good old days when giving birth was a time of real and great danger for all mothers.”  (As illustrated at left.) 

Fortunately, these days there isn’t such a great need for a blessing “given to mothers after recovery from childbirth,” including “thanksgiving for the woman’s survival of childbirth.”

And finally, the 2017 post pointed out this “First Presentation of Jesus” foreshadowed what might be called the “Second Presentation,” on Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified(As illustrated in the image below.)  “The point being that from the time He was first ‘presented’ at just over a month old, Jesus’ life was one long journey to the Second Presentation.”  (On the eve of His making another ritual sacrifice, one that would literally change history…)

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Which brings up a more current event.  This very morning I was listening to the audio version of Garry Wills‘ 2008 book, What the Gospels Meant.  In it Wills – this morning – discussed the “Antitheses” in Matthew Chapter 5.  Also the chapter which included The Beatitudes, after which Wills went on to discuss the topic of Murder.  As Wills translated it, “anyone who calls his brother ‘idiot!‘ will be subject to the Sanhedrin.”  (For the offense of de facto murder, according to the interpretation of Jesus.)  And of course that Sanhedrin included “the final authority on Jewish law, and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death.”

Which brings up my experience with Facebook, where a lot of people these days are calling a lot of other people “idiots,” and worse, for the simple fact of disagreeing with them, or holding a view contrary to their own “cherished beliefs.”  (See also ad hominem- Wikipedia.)

As another aside, the president of the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ time was CaiaphasHe was the one who accused Jesus of blasphemy, “a crime punishable by death under Jewish law.”  And thus of him it was said, “Not interested in the truth, Caiaphas preferred to destroy this challenge [of Jesus] to his beliefs instead of supporting it.”  In other words, if he lived today Caiaphas would probably say the Good News presented by Jesus was just “More Fake News.”

Which led me to Matthew 5:22 itself: “If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

Something else to think about…

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Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri (1).jpg

This could be called the “Second Presentation” – Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified

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The upper image is courtesy of Simeon And Anna Recognize The Lord Jesus – Image Results.  See also Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus – Rembrandt, and the “Simeon” link in the Wikipedia article on the Presentation, or at “Rembrandtonline.”  For another interpretation, see “Simeon the Godreceiver by Alexei Egorov. 1830–40s.”

Re:  “The Lord is a God of Knowledge.”  See Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

A God of knowledge. — The Hebrew words are placed thus:  A God of knowledge is the Lord, The Talmud quaintly comments here as follows: — Rabbi Ami says:  “Knowledge is of great price, for it is placed between two Divine names; as it is written (1Samuel 2:3), ‘ A God of knowledge is the Lord,’ and therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge; for it is written (Isaiah 27:11), ‘ It is a people of no understanding, therefore He that made them will not have mercy on them.'”

Re:  “The truth will set you free.”  See again Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

Here, as in John 17:17, truth and holiness are spoken of as correlative.  The light of truth dispels the darkness in which lies the stronghold of evil.  Sin is the bondage of the powers of the soul, and this bondage is willed because the soul does not see its fearful evil.  When it perceives the truth, there comes to it a power which rouses it from its stupor, and strengthens it to break the fetters by which it has been bound.

Re:  Garry Wills.  See also The True Test of Faith, and On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story.  The latter blog-post cited a New York Times review of Wills’ book What the Gospels Meant:

Yet the paradox of modern Christianity is that the growth of biblical scholarship … has done so little to affect the mass of biblical illiterates who proclaim their convictions about what Jesus would do while knowing precious little about what he actually did or, more important, what he meant…   In this sense, Wills is a dangerous man. (E.A.)

Wills’ discussion of the “Antitheses,” Matthew Chapter 5, The Beatitudes and murder can be found in the 2009 Penguin Books paperback version, at pages 81 and 82. 

The lower image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”

On the 12 days of Christmas, 2018-2019

The “nativity of Jesus” – a.k.a. Christmas – marking the birth of a new way to get to know God… 

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A Twelfth Night Feast: 'The King drinks'The last post I did was on December 14, 2018.  (My excuse is the rush of the holidays.)  So here goes:  The first post of 2019.

On that note, the full 12 Days of Christmas just ended this past Sunday, January 6:

The Twelve Days of Christmas is the festive Christian season [including “Twelfth Night,” shown above left] beginning on Christmas Day … that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God.  This period is also known as Christmastide…   The Feast of the Epiphany is on 6 January [and] celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) and their bringing of gifts to the child Jesus.  In some traditions, the feast of Epiphany and Twelfth Day overlap.

See also Happy Epiphany – 2018, which noted this Feast Day has a number of different names.  Like Epiphany proper, which “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.”  It’s also known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  (Again, just to confuse things, the evening of January 5 is called Twelfth Night.)  But wait, there’s still another name for January 6.   It’s also known as Three Kings Day (As in, “We Three Kings of Orient are…”)

For more on these topics, check Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” and To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”  The “Three Wise Guys” posted noted that in its original sense – circa 600 A.D. – the term Magi meant “followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.”  Also, the consensus that there were three kings started because they brought three gifts:  Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And while a literal view of the Three Wise Men story has them getting to the manger-scene just after Jesus was born, the truth seems a bit harder to pin down.  Some say they arrived the same winter Jesus was born, while others say they came two winters after his birth.  That would explain Herod’s order – noted in Matthew 2:16–18 – that his soldiers kill “all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under.”   (Known as the “Massacre of the Innocents,” illustrated at right.)

On a more cheerful note, we’re familiar with the three wise men largely thanks to a Christmas carol,  “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”  (For an “old-timey” version see Kings College Choir, Cambridge.  Another note:  The “3 wise guys” post went into great detail on the circumcision of Jesus, leading one authority to call January 1st the time “when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.”  And about the practice dating back to ancient Egypt, whose “Book of the Dead describes the sun god Ra as having circumcised himself.”  (That “Ra guy had to be “One Tough Monkey!”)

And finally, To Epiphany – “and BEYOND” explored the issue of “sin” as sometimes held out:

[T]he concepts of sin, repentance and confession should be viewed as “tools to help us get closer to the target.”  In other words, they help us grow and develop, and are not to be used as a means of social control…  Note also that the “Biblical Greek term for sin [amartia], means ‘missing the mark,’” and implies that “one’s aim is out and that one has not reached the goal, one’s fullest potential.”

And that – after all – is what the true Christian should be working for, during these alternating seasons of celebration and reflection:  To reach his or her full potential…

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But the main thing to remember here is that this whole season celebrates the idea that Christmastide celebrates the birth of “something new under the sun.”  It celebrates the birth of a new – non-conservative – way of thinking about God.  It celebrates the birth of a new – and far easier – way to approach God.  And it celebrates the birth of a new way to get closer to God.

But as noted in Announcing a new E-book, some say conservatives are the only real Christians.  And such stick-in-the-mud Christians will likely object – e.g. – to calling the Old Testament the “Conservative Testament.”  (That Jesus had to change, to bring up to date; see the notes.)

So – just in case some conservative Christian says anyone who believes in such things is “going to hell” – we can just quote 1st John 4:15:  “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”  Also, as I’ve indicated before, in prior blogs:

If Jesus had been a conservative, we’d all be Jewish!

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jesus 88

An image from “Discovering the Jewish Jesus…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Christmas – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Adoration of the Shepherds’ (1622) by Gerard van Honthorst [which] depicts the nativity of Jesus.”

The “Twelfth  Night” image is courtesy of A Twelfth Night Feast: ‘The King drinks’ c.1661 – rct.uk.  The full blurb from the Royal Collection Trust (RCT) read:  “JAN STEEN (LEIDEN 1626-LEIDEN 1679)  A Twelfth Night Feast: ‘The King drinks’ c.1661 … Oil on panel | 40.4 x 54.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 407489.”

Re:  Christmas as “the birth of a new way to get closer to God.”  You might even call the birth of Jesus the start of a whole New Testament, and thus what might be called the Liberal Testament.  That is, the newer Testament designed “to attain the objects for which the instrument is designed and the purpose to which it is applied.”  Which would be the Bible, and it’s goal of “saving” as many people as possible.  See for example, 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think.  Rather, he is patient for your sake.  He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act.”

That would be as opposed to the Old Testament, or what might be called the “Conservative Testament.”  See for example Strict constructionism – Wikipedia, which noted in part that “strictly literal interpretations” can lead to logically-deduced absurdities.  (Leading in turn to the “doctrine of absurdity, which holds that  common sense interpretations should be preferred over a “literal reading of a law or of original intent.”)  On that note see Isaiah 66, “Whoever kills a bull is like someone who kills a person.”  How many Bible literalists would support that interpretation today?  Which leads us back to the standard notes (below), holding that “this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go ‘beyond the fundamentals.’”

Re:  “If Jesus had been a conservative, we’d all be Jewish.”  See Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?  To which might be added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”  See The Outing (Seinfeld) – Wikipedia, on the 57th episode of the sitcom, and it’s “popular catchphrase among fans.”

Re:  Christmas as “something new under the sun.”  That’s a reversal of Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;  there is nothing new under the sun.”  Which could be an apt metaphor for the whole idea of the Old Testament being conservative and the New Testament being liberal.  Then again, it would be safe to say there has never been a president like Donald Trump.  In case I’m being too subtle, he too is “something new under the sun…”

The lower image is courtesy of Discovering the Jewish Jesus – Israel – Jerusalem Post.  The article – originally dated December 7, 2005 – began:  “Jesus Christ is the most famous Jew of all time, but is today remembered as a Christian.”  The article later added:

How odd that the Jews would accept a Christian version of one of their brethren rather than seeking to discover the man entombed beneath the myth.  Like a mummy whose bandages must be removed, 2,000 years of Christian gauze must be stripped away so we may discover the Jewish Jesus.  We may do so by reading the original story of Jesus in the New Testament, before it was modified by Pauline and Lucan editors…   These Christian editors hid the real Jesus’ message of political revolution against Rome, thereby transforming him into a sound-bite-speaking do-gooder who loved the Romans and hated his people.  THE REAL Jesus was a deeply religious Jewish patriot who despised the Romans for their cruelty to his people and for their paganism.  He never once abrogated the laws of the Torah, and expressly condemned those who advocated doing so (Matt. 5:18).

See also Jesus – Wikipedia, which noted the Islamic view of Jesus:  “A major figure in Islam, [He] is considered to be a messenger of God (Allah) and the Messiah (al-Masih) who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (Bani Isra’il) with a new scripture…  Muslims regard the gospels of the New Testament as inauthentic, and believe that Jesus’ original message was lost or altered.”  And finally, “Belief in Jesus (and all other messengers of God) is a requirement for being a Muslim.  The Quran mentions Jesus by name 25 times—more often than Muhammad.”  The image at left reads:  “The name Jesus son of Mary written in Islamic calligraphy followed by Peace be upon him.”

Santa saves three men, and “Doubting” shows the way…

The REAL Saint Nicholas, in the process of saving “three innocents from death…”

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As noted this time last year, “Christmas is only a few days away.  But first comes the Feast day of Thomas the Apostle, on December 21.  And Thomas – in [a] way – serves as a metaphor for all us ‘Doubters.'”  See On “Saint Doubting Thomas” – 2017.  From December 22, 2017.

That Feast day came after last December 6 – about a week ago – which was the Feast day for the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  See There really IS a “Saint Nick” (Virginia), from December 9, 2017.  But first another “but first:”  Not only did I just publish a new E-book, there’s now a paperback version.  It’s available from Lulu.com(Under the Shop link, and under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”)

Which is another way of saying that last Thursday, December 6, was the Feast day for Nicholas of Myra, in the Daily Office lectionary.  Then the upcoming Friday, December 21, is the Feast day for St. Thomas, Apostle(And of course the 12 Days of Christmas are coming up as well.) 

Which brings us back to last year’s posts from about this time:

Wednesday, December 6 [in 2017], was the Feast day for the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  He was Saint Nicholas of Myra, and he lived from 270 to 340 A.D.  So when Dr. Philip O’Hanlon told his daughter, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” he was telling the truth…  Or at least the truth as that term is defined in today’s politics.

Location of Demre in Antalya province, Turkey.You can see more about this prototype in There really IS a “Saint Nick.”  That Real St. Nicholas saved three innocent men – shown in the painting at the top of the page – who’d been wrongly sentenced to death by a corrupt official.  That corrupt ruler of Myra – today’s DemreTurkey – accepted bribes to sentence the men to death.  But this first St. Nick was not to be intimidated by the “power of others, especially the power of the corrupt.”  He “stormed into the prefect’s office and demanded that the charges against the three men be dropped:”

That corrupt official eventually “confessed his sin and sought the saint’s forgiveness.  Nicholas absolved him, but only after the ruler had undergone a period of repentance.”  Which leads to this thought:  “Boy, we could sure use him today!!!

Other stories told of Nicholas of Myra’s “love for God and for his neighbor.”  Like providing dowries for three poor unmarried daughters.  (Thus saving them from a life of prostitution.)  Or of three children killed and “pickled” by a butcher – during a time of extreme famine – who planned “to sell them off as ham.”  But Nicholas of Myra both “’saw through the butcher’s horrific crime’ and resurrected the three children from the barrel.”

That brings us to the feast day for the “original Doubting Thomas,” a term which refers to a “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.”  But as noted last year, that’s exactly what going to church and reading the Bible is supposed to provide:  An opportunity for a direct and personal experience with the Force that Created the Universe.  See also The Bible and mysticismwhich said Christianity is all about “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.”

So a mystic and a Christian both seek a “direct personal experience with God.:

In plain words there are two sides of the Christian experience:  The “corporate” or business side, and the “mystical” side.  The problem is that so many Christians get hung up on the “business side” of the Christian faith.  Mainly because it’s so much easier…  But it’s only the mystical side that can lead to a direct personal experience with God, and Thomas the Apostle is a reminder that – hard as that may be – it can be done….

So here’s wishing you a happy “real St. Nick” and “first Doubting Thomas” Day…

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Thomas the Apostle, as envisioned by El Greco (in about 1612…)

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The upper image is courtesy of Saint Nicholas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption:  “Saint Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death (oil painting by Ilya Repin, 1888, State Russian Museum).”   See also St. Nicholas Center … Saint Who Stopped an Execution.

The lower image is courtesy of Apostle St Thomas by GRECO, El – wga.hu.  For more on Thomas and his missionary journeys, see Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.”

On the THREE days of Hallowe’en…

“A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows…”

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (“Who comes to Him.”  See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgMost people think Halloween is one day, October 31st.  But there are actually three days of “Hallowe’en.”  Or more precisely, Halloween is the first day of the Halloween “Triduum.”  (In the alternative Allhallowtide.) 

And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”

In turn the word “hallow” – in both “Hallowe’en” and “Allhallowtide” – came from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.  That eventually became “hallow.”  (Maybe because it was easier to say.)  Which led to November 1 now being called All Saints’ Day.  But to the Old English, “All Haligs’ Day” – November 1 – eventually became “All Hallows Day.”  Then the “eve” before that Feast Day – October 31 – became “All Hallows Evening.”  In time that shortened to “All Hallows E’en.”  And later still it shortened to “Hallowe’en,” then just plain Halloween.

Wikipedia said this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead, including martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.”  The main day of the three is November 1, now called All Saints Day, but previously referred to as Hallowmas.  It was established sometime between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.”

Put another way, November 1 honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.”  In other words, special people in the Church.  (A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”)  On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – was designed to honor “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks (Those of us who have died, that is.)

So back to Halloween:  It all started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter.  The “old-timers” also thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:

So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities.  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

Another thing they did was build bonfires, literally bonefires.  (That is, “bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”)  The original idea was that evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.  But that evolved into this:  The “fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”

There was another old-time custom, that if you had to travel on All Hallows E’en – like from 11:00 p.m. until midnight – your had to be careful.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.”

The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches

Then there were the pumpkins.  Apparently some other old-time people set out carved pumpkins on their windowsills, to keep “harmful spirits” out of their home.   But yet another tradition said  jack-o’-lanterns “represented Christian souls in purgatory.”  And while today jack-o’-lanterns are made from pumpkins, but were originally carved from large turnips.

In turn, both the jack-o’-lantern and Will-o’-the-wisp – at right, in a Japanese interpretation – are tied in with the strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”)  That refers to the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes.  It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Tradition had it that this ghostly light – seen by travelers at night and “especially over bogs, swamps or marshes – resembled a flickering lamp.  The flickering lamp then receded if you approached it, and so it “drew travelers from their safe paths,” to their doom…

Finally we get to the third of the three-day holiday – November 2 – All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below.

“Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives” on November 2.  The custom began in the sixth century with a Benedictine custom of commemorating deceased members of a given monastery at Whitsuntide.  (Or “Whit(e) Sunday,” also known as Pentecost, held 50 days after Easter Sunday.)  That changed in the 11th century when Saint Odilo of Cluny chose the day after All Souls Day to commemorate “all the faithful departed … with alms, prayers, and sacrifices for the relief of the suffering souls in purgatory.”

On that note, here’s the Collect for All Saints Day, from the Lectionary Page website:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:  Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;  through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

So there you have it.  In closing, here’s wishing you a happy three days of Hallowe’en. 

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

The “Three Days of Halloween” end November 2, with All Souls’ Day …

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The upper image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows.  Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.”

The image of the jack-o’lantern is courtesy of Halloween – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A jack-o’-lantern, one of the symbols of Halloween representing the souls of the dead.”

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls’ Day – Wikipedia.  The caption: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau.”   See also Allhallowtide, and All Saints’ Day – Wikipedia.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men…

A colorful Japanese illustration of the parable of the Blind men and elephant… 

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In the meantime:

October 23 is the Feast Day for James, the brother of Jesus.  About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part.  He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”

According to Wikipedia – and other sources – “In the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and Lutheran Church, James, brother of Jesus and martyr is commemorated on October 23.”  On the other hand the Feast Day for James the Greater is on July 25.  See On “St. James the Greater,” posted July 24, 2014.  Among other things, James the Greater is considered the “patron saint of pilgrims.”  Seen at left, he is “depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

And incidentally, in that July 2014 post I got these two Jameses mixed up, which is apparently not that uncommon.  See for example The Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study.  That site listed the following men named James in the New Testament:  1) James the son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle St. John (James the Greater);  2) James the “brother” of Jesus (whose Feast Day is October 23);  3) the Apostle James, “son of Alphaeus;”  and 4) James, the father of the Apostle Jude.

So anyway, this particular “James” is considered to be the author of the Epistle of James.  And according to his Wikipedia article, “As many as six different men in the Bible are named James.”  All of which makes for more than the usual amount of confusion.  For example:

Roman Catholic tradition generally holds that this James is to be identified with James, son of Alphaeus, and James the Less.  It is agreed by most [Catholics, apparently] that he should not be confused with James, son of Zebedee.

Saint James the Just.jpgBe that as it may, here’s what the Wikipedia article said about this particular “10/23” James – whose “icon” is shown at right:

The Pauline epistles and the later chapters of the Acts of the Apostles portray James as an important figure in the Christian community of Jerusalem.  When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith…  Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9, Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.

Another note:  The Gospel for this Feast Day is Matthew 13:54-58.  It tells of Jesus returning to His home town and teaching in the synagogue.  As a result, the locals were “astounded” at His teaching, and started asking, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”

But wait!  There’s still more confusion!  This time as to James’ death:  “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.”  But “Clement of Alexandria relates that ‘James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.'”  All of which brings up the “parable of the Blind men and elephant.”

I discussed this parable in Reading the Bible (July 2014), On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel” (June 2015), and On snake-handling “redux” (May 2016).  I added a new wrinkle to the “Seven Blind Men and the Elephant” with the April 2018 post, “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other(Including the image at left.)

The gist of that post was that Good Christians should be able to “argue” with each other – in the good sense.  (The sense of “civil” lawyers presenting concise and reasoned bases to support their position, and not resorting to name-calling or “ad hominem” attacks.)

The gist of that post was also that in doing so, such “Good” Christians can fulfill their duty as “Watchmen of Christ” for each other, pursuant to Ezekiel 3:16-19 (“Task as Watchman“):

 [T]he word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel…   When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.   But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

So if one good Christian sees another one in error, he is duty-bound to discuss that potential error.  And from the resulting “spirited debate,” both Christians may get ever closer to “the Truth.”  As Wikipedia noted, the parable can be used to “illustrate a range of truths and fallacies.”  For example, “one’s subjective experience can be true, but [is] inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.”

At various times the parable has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, [as well as] the need for deeper understanding, and respect for different perspectives on the same object of observation.

Of course such “persuasion” can only work with Christians willing to admit they don’t have all the answers, or that anyone who disagrees with them is “going to hell.”  (From the “very-American concept of the adversary system – a basic tenet of our legal system – as the best way of arriving at ‘the truth.’”)  And which is actually based on the Bible, like in Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

The point of the parable was that each blind man, “in his own opinion,” thought the elephant was “like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they had touched.”  Which led to this “Moral,” from the poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887):

So oft in theologic wars, The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant not one of them has seen!

And if such disputes can arise over a “mere elephant,” it’s no small wonder how many heated arguments have come over the full depth and meaning of God, a God “not one of them has seen!”  Or as Apostle Paul said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.” (1st Corinthians 13:12.”

And if the Apostle Paul can admit that even he could see “only in part,” who are we to say we know “everything there is to know about God,” or dare to tell other people how to live?

All of which brings up what the great philosopher Charlie Chan once noted:

“Mind like parachute; work best when open.”

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http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51smUOfD0aL.jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of Blind men and elephant – Wikipedia.  The ull caption: “Blind monks examining an elephant, an ukiyo-e print by Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724).”  This parable has “crossed between many religious traditions and is part of of JainBuddhistSufi and Hindu lore.”  (Wikipedia.)  In the Buddhist version, “The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what it is like and their dispute delights the king.  The Buddha ends the story by comparing the blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views.”  See also Matthew 13:34 (ESV):  “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.

The lower image of Charlie Chan is courtesy of amazon.com/Charlie-Collection-Honolulu-Treasure.  See also Some Bible basics from Vince Lombardi and Charlie Chan, which included the Home-page quote, “Mind like parachute.  Work best when open.”  See also THE BASICS, above.   

On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel”

File:Brugghen, Hendrick ter - The Calling of St. Matthew - 1621.jpg

The Calling of St. Matthew,” by Hendrick ter Brugghenas described in Matthew 9:9-13… 

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

I wrote in 2016’s St. Matthew and “Cinderella” that two major feast days in September are Holy Cross Day (9/14) and St. Matthew, Evangelist (9/21).  A third major feast day comes on September 29, for “St. Michael and All Angels.”  And just as an aside, there’s a painting in that last post, “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.”  To which I said:

 “Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

There’s more on that later, but first:  To review, 9/14’s Holy Cross Day is one of several Feasts of the Cross, all of which “commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus:”

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

As far as St. Matthew and “Cinderella” go, that post noted that the love Jesus had for all mankind extended even to tax collectors (As caricatured at left.)

That is, in Jesus’ time – and among the Jewish people especially – such a tax farmer as Matthew was “sure to be hated above all men as a merciless leech who would take the shirt off a dying child.”  And so – during the time of Jesus – devout Jews avoided them at all costs.

They were fellow Jews, but worked for the Romans as tax collectors.  And “because they were usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes).”  Which led to this lesson from Jesus:

Thus, throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast.  Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

“Which turned out to be good news for pretty much all of us.”  Because – as a Bible conservative would have said in Jesus’ time – The Good News didn’t extend to us “Gentiles.”

There’s more good news in “St. Michael and All Angels.”  If you can keep an open mind.  I mentioned the painting captioned, “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.”  And that I’m ready to “take all the help I can get!”  But first some background:

Michael is mentioned most prominently in Revelation 12:7-10:

[T]here was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.  And prevailed not…   [T]he great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.   And I heard a loud voice saying … the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

See also Michael (archangel) – Wikipedia, which noted that in the “New Testament Michael leads God’s armies against Satan‘s forces … where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan.”  Also, Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, once as a “great prince who stands up for the children of your people.”  And the formal name for September 29 is Michaelmas.

Now comes the tricky part.  I go to the Episcopal Church, part of the Anglican Communion.   We use the Book of Common Prayer.  And the Prayer Book says the idea of purgatory is both a “Romish doctrine” and “repugnant to the Word of God.”  But like I said, I’m willing to be flexible.

The thing is, without purgatory your dying day is pass-fail.  You’re either in or you’re out.  You either go to heaven or “down, down the down-down way.”  But with purgatory you get another chance.  You can enter that “intermediate state after physical death,” where some of those “ultimately destined for heaven” can first undergo “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”  And like I said, I’m willing to be flexible.

So here’s to Michael (archangel), and his reaching out to save souls in purgatory.”

Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

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“Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory . . .”

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The upper image is courtesy of  Brugghen, Hendrick ter – The Calling of St. Matthew See also Matthew the Apostle – Wikipedia.

Re:  “Such a tax farmer as St. Matthew.”  The reference is to a post in 2014, On St. Matthew.

Re:  Purgatory as a “Romish doctrine.”  See page 872 of the BCP, or The Online Book of Common Prayer under Historical Documents of the Church, Articles of Religion, Part XXII:

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well
of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and
grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

But another note on Purgatory and the Episcopal Church:  “Although denying the existence of purgatory as formulated in Roman Catholic doctrine, the Anglican and Methodist traditions … affirm the existence of an intermediate state, Hades, and thus pray for the dead.”  The latter will be addressed later this month, as noted in 2017’s On the THREE days of Hallowe’en.

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, with the full caption: “Guido Reni‘s painting in Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, 1636 is also reproduced in mosaic at the St. Michael Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

Did Jesus interpret Scripture “liberally?”

In the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” Jesus rejected conservatism in favor of grace

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I originally called this post “Jesus was a liberal.”  But after further review I narrowed the scope, something appeal-courts often do.  That made the question far less broad and so easier to answer.  Thus the limited question:  “Did Jesus interpret Scripture ‘liberally?”  Or as one legal site said, “What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

And that’s just what Jesus did.  (And His disciples.)  For starters, there’s Mark 2:27 where Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”  That is, under the old law – the “conservative law” – of Exodus 23:12, any work on the Sabbath was forbidden:

For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you must cease, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your maidservant may be refreshed, as well as the foreign resident.

Philippe de Champaigne - Moses with the Ten Commandments - WGA04717.jpg(See also Deuteronomy 5:12, and 5:14.)  But to Jesus, circumstances had changed since Moses made that rule.  (Right after he brought the Israelites out of captivity.)  Which meant the “old law” needed updating.  (Mostly because Conservatives had elevated form over substance, as they are wont to do.)  So Jesus went back to the original words of the rule to fully implement its true intent.  

So again, “What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

Which seems to be just what Jesus had in mind:  Make the Gospel apply to more people.

Then too – as if that isn’t enough to give a Southern Baptist apoplexy – many if not most of His disciples also interpreted Scripture “liberally.”  (Thus making the “Good News” apply to more things and in more situations – and to more people – than could be the case under strict construction.) 

Which brings up the fact that last June 29 was the Feast Day for both Saints Peter and Paul.  The Daily Office Readings for that day – Friday, June 29 – included Acts 11:1-18.  That’s one place where the Apostle Peter “went all Liberal.”  He did that in response to the Conservatives among early Christians who criticized him.  See Acts 11:1:  “Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God.”

Which didn’t suit them at all.  See Acts 11:2:  “So when Peter” – at left – “went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers” – that is, the Conservatives – “criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’  But as it turned out. those Conservatives had open minds.  That is, after Peter explained his “vision,” they actually changed their minds.  (Something today’s Conservatives rarely do.)  See Acts 11:18:  “When they heard these things they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'”

That is, under the Old Law – the Conservative, “Jeff Sessions” law – the Path of Life was limited to Jews, and only to Jews.  That’s pretty much what Jesus said – at first – in Matthew 15:27.  That’s where Jesus set out the Conservative view that “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  (With the children being the Jews – and only the Jews – while the “dogs” are uncircumcised Gentiles.)  Yet Jesus – with His open mind – got “persuaded” to change His mind.

And – by the way – that turnabout came through a woman who was a bit smarmy:

With a woman’s ready wit, quickened by urgency and affection, she seizes the opportunity, and turns Christ’s own words against himself.  Thou sayest truth, she means;  the Jews are the children;  we are the dogs;  and as dogs we claim our portion.

Paolo Veronese. Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood.(From the Pulpit Commentary for verse 27.)  Then there was the case of Jesus healing the bleeding woman.  But His having anything to do with such an impure woman was contrary to the conservative “old” law of Leviticus 15:25-27:

“If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness.”

(See also Leviticus 15:19-23, regarding a woman’s regular monthly “Curse…”)

And finally there was the case of the Apostle Philip “liberally” dealing with an untouchable eunuch.  See On Saint Philip, Saint James, and “privy members.”  That is, as a eunuch the Ethiopian eunuch was untouchable under the Old Law, the Conservative Law.

That’s because of Deuteronomy 23:1, and the New Living Translation is pretty specific:  “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.”  The King James Bible – the one that God uses – put the matter more delicately:  “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.”  Yet Philip too turned “all Liberal,” and in doing so followed in the footsteps of Jesus.  That is, he interpreted the “Good News” so that it would apply to more things, more situations, and more people than was possible under “strict construction.”

(For more on whether Jesus was a “liberal,” see On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?)

Of course some conservatives – Biblical or otherwise – may disagree, which is of course their right.  But personally I’d like the Good News to apply to more people.  For one big thing, there’s Matthew 7:2:  “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”  For myself, when my time comes I want whoever – Jesus, St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, whoever – to “turn all liberal” when He or they are reviewing my life.

Then too, the definition of conservatism includes a disposition “to preserve what is established,” and/or a “tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change.”  So all I can say is, “Thank God Jesus wasn’t a conservative!”  I’m glad He made some changes.

The bottom line?  All I can do is give you “just the facts.”  You decide for yourself…

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The upper image is courtesy of The Return of the Prodigal Son (Rembrandt) – Wikipedia:

It is among the Dutch master’s final works, likely completed within two years of his death in 1669.  Depicting the moment of the prodigal son‘s return to his father … it is a renowned work described by art historian Kenneth Clark as “a picture which those who have seen the original in St. Petersburg may be forgiven for claiming as the greatest picture ever painted.”

See also Parable of the Prodigal Son – Wikipedia, which indicated that the older son – who stayed behind with his father – represented more “conservative” values.  That is, the older son  “seems to think in terms of ‘law, merit, and reward,’ rather than ‘love and graciousness.’  He may represent the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus.”  See also “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  

The initial first paragraph:  “It seems that if you want to start an argument these days, you could say something outrageous like ‘Jesus Was A Liberal.’  So here goes!  For starters, if you Google ‘jesus was a liberal’ you’ll get about 100,000 results.  (Which actually isn’t that many…)”   Also, the full title of the “Jesus-liberal” link is Jesus Was A Liberal: 20 Quotes GOP Christians Will Hate.  For an opposing view, see Was Jesus a Liberal? The Myth Debunked! » Louder With Crowder.  Or for a more balanced view, see Is Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative? | Meet The Need Blog.

Re:  The Sabbath.  See United Church of God – “The Sabbath Was Made for Man,” etc.

Re: Peter and Paul.  See also On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”

Re:  Turning “Christ’s own words against himself.”  See also On arguing with God.

The “bleeding woman” image is courtesy of Veronese. Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood.

 BTW:  The complete Daily Office Readings for St. Peter & St. Paul are:  AM Psalm 66Ezekiel 2:1-7Acts 11:1-18;  PM Psalm 97138Isaiah 49:1-6Galatians 2:1-9.

The lower image is courtesy of Just The Facts Ma’am – Image Results.  But see also Joe Friday – Wikipedia, which noted that Detective Friday never actually used the phrase:  “A common misattributed catchphrase to Friday is ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ In fact, Friday never actually said this in an episode, but it was featured in Stan Freberg‘s works parodying ‘Dragnet.’”  See also FACT CHECK: Dragnet ‘Just the Facts’ – snopes.com.